Parents Should Not Worry About the Sleep Patterns of Their Babies

A sleeping baby

In a study that’s published in an online journal, researchers asked mothers to keep a sleep diary of their babies for two weeks. On average, mothers reported that their six-month-olds slept 6 hours consecutively for about five nights out of two weeks, and eight consecutive hours for about three nights out of the same period. Half of the babies involved in the research, however, never slept 8 hours consecutively.

Marie-Helene Pennestri, who is an assistant professor in the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology at McGill University and also a professional researcher at the Hospital en santé mentale Riviere-des-Prairies in Canada states that although previous research has shown that infants start sleeping through the night at different stages of development, little is known about individual sleep patterns night after night.

Marie-Henele Pennestri found that the sleep patterns through the night vary among babies.
Effects of Co-Sleeping and Breastfeeding

The professionals also found that a few parental practices were related to variability in sleep patterns. For example, co-sleeping and breastfeeding were associated with more variability in these patterns night to night. While this finding is extremely consistent with many studies, the researchers note that other factors can easily explain this occurrence. This means that mothers who are co-sleeping and breastfeeding are more likely to observe their infants’ night awakenings, even though they are not necessarily disturbing and problematic.

A “Good Night’s Sleep” With a New Meaning

Pennestri also says that parents are often exposed to rather misleading information about infant sleep, and they should not worry about if their babies do not sleep through the night at a specific age. The reason for this is that sleep patterns differ a lot in infancy. She also notes that clinicians and parents should both be aware that occasional sleeping through the night does not necessarily indicate a consolidation of this behavior.

Pennestri thinks that one important piece of the puzzle is understanding the perceptions of the parents and their expectations of infant sleep. They hope that in future research they will have the chance to explore what “sleeping through the night” really means to them.